It ill becomes the servant to seek to be rich, and great, and honoured in that world where his Lord was poor, and mean, and despised.
Riches, greatness, honor. Aren’t these the things for which men tirelessly strive? To have all three would be the pinnacle of the human existence–or so it is thought.
Yet the people of God, historically, have most often been found not in palaces, but in common clothes, wandering in the wilderness, walking the streets, seated at collection tables and manning fishing vessels.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1 Corinthians 1:26
It’s okay to be average and lowly by the world’s standards. Because God’s pattern is to utterly cast down the ideal of this world and replace it with something weak–something that could never receive credit for the greatness it has received.
This humility was the model he created through Christ, whereby glory came through suffering, riches through poverty and salvation through death.
So why are so many Christians seeking exaltation before their time? Why are they aiming to lift themselves up rather than being lifted up by God?
And why do they set for themselves a high standard of living when their own brethren flounder in poverty?
Consider the opening quote: if the Master made himself of low estate, how much more his servants? The apostle Paul stated that his joy would be made full if the Philippians (and all believers, by extension) were likeminded, possessed the same love, were of one accord and of one mind (Philippians 2:2). He wrote,
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Philippians 2:3, 4
Please, don’t let yourself be numbered with those who look upon the second chapter of Philippians with a certain admiration, but deny the power of it. Think of what it would look like to consider others superior to yourself: their needs above yours; their progress your priority.
And, of course, if all were of the same love and of the same mind, even you would find yourself benefiting from someone putting your needs above their own.
And this is the design of the body of Christ: each member is to regard the other more than itself–the hand gives more regard to the foot than to itself, but the foot also has the same regard for the hand–and lo and behold, the entire body is taken care of and built up thereby. It edifies itself in love (Ephesians 4:16).
Yet not all members heed the blueprint and so it is up to each member to accept the exhortation and practice it in hopes that the other members will do the same. I have learned that the commandments and exhortations of God are not meant to be imposed on others as a means of exacting service from them, but to be applied to ourselves and acted upon regardless of whether or not others reciprocate. The scriptures do not say, “Husbands, get submission from your wives; wives, get love from your husbands.” But each is instructed to give (not take) something: the husband love, the wife submission.
And the supreme command in all situations is to love, and love “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Brethren, we should not be consumed with building a life for ourselves that we would not build for others. Why retain and use so much money for excesses when there are brothers and sisters who have nothing? Are we more worthy than they? “Giving” should be the brand found on every Christian; but we see “taking” and “hoarding” instead.
The so-called middle class will protest, “Let the rich do it! They’re the ones with the money!” But to those who have nothing, the middle class are rich. If you are of the middle class and claim to be poor (though your household has an income in excess of $100,000 annually), barring medical expenses or other expensive necessities, it’s likely because you’ve purchased–on payments–far too many non-essentials that you convinced yourself you needed for you and your family’s well-being.
There are those who will never see $100,000 in their entire lifetime. They are poor, not you.
We have this strange idea, especially in privileged countries like the United States, that there is a such a thing as the “poor overweight” person; or that those of the middle class, who may not be able to afford to buy everything with cash, but do have jobs that pay enough for them to live very comfortably, endure mortgage payments and send their kids to college, are too “poor” to help anyone.
And the years of redefining “poor” and “rich” in wealthy societies have led to complaints about not being able to afford the latest iPhone, rather than the more “archaic” problem of not being able to afford one’s daily bread.
And then we have obese preachers with nice homes and nice cars, cultivating their flesh, but preaching that we need to be focusing on the things of the Spirit, some even declaring that ministries invested in providing for the needs of the body and sustaining human life aren’t in God’s will–as if God would delight in preserving the soul while starving the body.
I don’t mean to be unnecessarily harsh, only to hopefully stir many awake from the American Dream.
I could use Paul’s teaching on widows as an example.
There are two types of widows described in 1 Timothy 5.
The first is the one who “lives in pleasure”. The Greek word points to “luxury”. She is a woman who lives luxuriously, denying herself nothing, satisfying herself in everything. His words for this woman are blunt: she is dead while she lives. We deceive ourselves if we think that living for self-satisfaction and total comfort is really living. It is, in fact, death. Paul testified in the book of Romans that when sin revived, he died (Romans 7:9). Sinning is simply missing the mark, missing the right thing. And it is wrong for mankind to live for himself. To live in what is wrong, then, is to be dead while you’re alive.
On the other hand, we have the woman who is approved, of whom it is written,
Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
1 Timothy 5:9, 10
That woman may not look like much, nor would she likely have much, but she is really living because she is doing what’s right. She fears the Lord and should be praised. She’s not living after the flesh and dying, she is, through the Spirit, mortifying the deeds of the body and living.
So what are we here for? Do we exist to fix our eyes on the temporal or the eternal? Were we created in Christ to do the works set out for us by the world, or to walk in the good works set out for us by God?
The Lord left us a towering example of lowliness. A doctrine of impoverishing ourselves, if need be, for the richness of others. An example of a life lived in meekness and humility, with the reward of being lifted up in the life to come. This is the essence of the life of Christ in all of the saints if they would but yield to it rather than the flesh.
Remember the saints.
For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;
2 Corinthians 9:12